Ethan and I will be leading a discussion called Emergent Democracy Worldwide at the Digital Democracy Teach-In in San Diego on February 9. Ethan has posted a critique of Jim Moore's Second Superpower and my Emergent Democracy paper. He asks some important questions. One of the questions, which gets developed more in the comments is what made Salam Pax successful? One of the most difficult things that the we face is getting people to care about people in developing nations. Somehow, Salam Pax was able to get Americans to read his blog and get them to care in a way that statistics and objective reporting could not.
Salam Pax wrote English like a native, he was relatively well off, he shared a cultural context (his music, his humor) with his American audience. What else? Will a Salam Pax of Congo emerge? Ethan talks about the current small percentage of privileged elite who currently blog and how this is not representative. I think that Salam Pax is also not representative of the average man in Iraq. From a practical perspective, I think that we are going to have to start by finding a small number of interesting and articulate translator/bridges in each of the developing nations. These people, like Salam Pax, will most likely come from privileged positions, but if they, like Salam Pax strive to recruit more bloggers and help provide voices to those who are less technically or otherwise not currently capable of expressing themselves, this is a start.
I think the two key pieces to work on first are to report on issues in under-reported regions and to help people care about issues in these regions. As Jack Kemp once said, "It doesn't matter what you know, if you don't care." Salam Pax was able to help many Americans care and know more about Iraq. How can we seed this in other countries and increase the scale. Iraq is much wealthier and advanced that many developing nations and it is unlikely that there is a Salam Pax in every country that needs a voice. I'm looking forward to talking to and discussing with Ethan and others who are in or work in developing nations to try to think of ways to make the technology more accessibly and their voices more interesting to the rest of the world.
Ethan's post is quite long and he asks many other questions that are quite important, so I suggest you read it. I thought I would highlight just this point for now.